Even if you’re new to tabletop gaming, you’ve probably seen Dungeons and Dragons miniatures on the shelf at your local game shop or book store, so you have some idea of what 3D minis look like. But many gamers have never seen high-quality cardstock miniatures on a game table, and you may be one of them. The idea of gaming figures that don’t cost several dollars apiece probably appeals to you, but you may be hesitant to shell out money for a digital product that you’ve never tried before. Or you may not even know where to go to find cardstock minis. Today, I’ll address both of those problems by showing you where you can find high-quality, free cardstock miniatures, so you can find out what they are all about.
You’re looking for files, not boxes
Although a few publishers sell pre-printed cardstock miniatures in various physical formats, the figures we’re looking for today don’t come in blister packs. Instead, you find them online, where their creators have shared them for free downloaded by gamers like yourself. We’re only looking at minis offered through well-established, legit websites, where artists and publishers share their work either as a contribution to the print-and-play community, or as free samples intended to interest you in their paid sets. We won’t be searching obscure corners of the web for hidden gems—at least not today. We can find plenty of great miniatures in obvious places to keep us busy for many days of printing, assembling, and playing.
Cardstock minis are almost always offered as portable document files, better known as PDFs. In order to print them, you’ll need the free version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. It’s probably already on your computer, but if it’s not, Acrobat Reader easy to install from Adobe’s website. Just be careful to uncheck the box for any “Optional Offer” software that may be installed along with Reader—sometimes that “bonus” software will interfere with software you already have on your computer. Adobe Acrobat Reader DC itself is quite safe, though.
Free Cardstock Miniatures from OneMonk.com
The first stop on our free mini hunt is OneMonk.com, home of the extensive Mayhem in Paper cardstock miniature line. On the front page of the site, you’ll find lots of links to several extensive collections of minis from MiP for sale at DriveThruRPG.com. Feel free to check those out, but today we’re after the free stuff at OneMonk. From the nav menu below the banner at the top of the page, click Downloads. That will take you to One Monk’s Download Central, where everything is free, and there’s lots of it!
There are way too many figures here to list them all, but let me point you to a few of my favorites.
The Main Monk
Click the One Monk logo in the center column, second panel down. Assuming you’re into fantasy, from the One Monk page be sure to download Heroic Races Fantasy Races 01, Fey Princess, Free Monster Set 1, and Skeleton Pirates. If you’re interested in sci-fi, check out Alien Hunters, High-Tech Assassins, Starship Soldiers, and even the Galaxy Quest crew! There are several more complicated models here as well, but stick to 2D stand-up figures for now. You can double back for the three-dimensional models when you’ve got some more papercrafting under your belt.
Dryw’s Imperfect People
Dryws’ Imperfect Creations—left column, second panel—is an incredibly vast array of medieval and fantastic characters to populate the towns, castles and dungeons in your RPG campaign. Dryw’s covered everything from Abominations to Lumberjacks and Mages to Zombies, along with just about any village resident you can think of. For quick and cost-effective NPC figures, Dryw the Harper is your man.
House of Hopkins
Under the House of Hopkins—left column, third panel—you’ll find several sets of ratmen, along with an extensive elven army. If you’re looking to field a faction for a miniatures wargame, either of these races could get you started.
Friends of the Monk
In the Guest Artists collection—right column, second panel—you’ll find several excellent sets shared by friends of One Monk. Start out with the Cardboard Warriors Forum Magic Users, Cardboard Warriors Freebies and Orc Mods by Afet to get your fantasy collection going. And if you’re into the original Star Trek, be sure to pillage David Okum’s Where No Man Has Gone Before collection, six sets of pro-quality minis for your adventures on the final frontier.
Hordes of Hoards
You may have noticed I skipped the Forum Hoards (first panel in the left column) and the Papercuts Showcase (right column, top panel). That’s because the collections on these two pages are huge, and you’ll need some time to browse through them all. Even so, I’ll point you at a few sets that are especially interesting.
Hoard #141, April 2017, includes squads of stormtroopers, battle droids, and clone troopers, for your wars among the stars. Hoard #99, October 2011, was conceived as a fantasy sports team, but feel free to use them as your personal undead army, and Hoard #92, March 2011, presents enough Wild West miniatures to populate a boomtown, and enough Weird West walking dead to fill a ghost town. Hoards #81-83 bring together a large collection of fantasy heroes and monsters in a single download from May, 2010, followed in the same month by Hoards #84-85, consisting of two companies of evil knights in full plate armor.
Every September, the Cardboard Warriors forum presents its Papercuts Awards to honor the best work by forum members from the previous year. Designer categories focus on original papercraft creations, and include Best Single Figure, Best Multi-Figure Set, Best 3D Model and Best Tileset. Be sure to check out not just the winners, but all the entrants each year. Printable Heroes has taken Best Single Figure honor two years running; check out his epic Ancient Red Dragon from 2016 and Orcus, Prince of Death, from 2017. Be sure to download those, but save them until you’ve had some practice assembling cardstock miniatures—they both stand several inches tall, and may take a practiced hand to assemble successfully.
Keep Your Feet on the Ground
Now that you’ve downloaded several sets of cardstock miniatures, you’re going to need some bases to stand them up. Fortunately, One Monk has you covered. Scroll to the bottom of One Monk’s Download Central page and click the Bases panel (center column, bottom panel). On the Bases page, start by downloading the “Tabbed Base Instructions” in the upper left corner. This single page PDF will explain how to assemble One Monk’s handy cardstock bases. Then browse the rest of the page for a texture that appeals to you–One Monk offers a wide selection of base textures from several other artists, as well as his own. Among the bases offered at One Monk, I usually prefer the Fat Dragon Dungeon texture for fantasy games, One Monk’s own Battle Field for fantasy exterior settings, and One Monk’s Wasteland base texture for sci-fi and post-apocalyptic settings.
When you assemble One Monk’s tabbed bases, be sure not to glue the two vertical tabs together when you glue the horizontal surfaces. If you get glue between the vertical tabs, you won’t be able to insert the tab at the foot of the figure into the slot. If you glue carefully, though, you’ll find One Monk’s bases to be remarkably effective, especially considering their cost of $0.
To Be Continued…
You’ve probably downloaded a hundred figures or so by now, and we’re still at the first stop on our free mini safari. I’m about out of space and time, so I’ll continue our hunt in my next post, which will take us to DriveThruRPG. If you haven’t downloaded at least a couple good sets from One Monk, though, double back and do that now. That way, you’ll have something to play with while you wait for the next installment to drop!
Until then, keep printing, and keep playing!